WASHINGTON (AP) — Education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos appears to have used quotes from an Obama administration official without attribution in her written responses to questions from Democrats considering her nomination.
DeVos' nomination cleared the Senate Health, Education, Pensions and Labor Committee on Tuesday, despite fierce opposition from Democrats.
In response to a question on LGBT rights, DeVos wrote to Sen. Patty Murray, the committee's top Democrat, "Every child deserves to attend school in a safe, supportive environment where they can learn, thrive, and grow."
The quote appears to closely track a statement by Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, who said in a May press release , "Every child deserves to attend school in a safe, supportive environment that allows them to thrive and grow."
Answering a question about civil rights protections, DeVos also used a phrase that appears to copy a document on the Education Department website almost word for word.
The Washington Post was first to report on the coincidences.
"Upon initial review, many of the responses look copied and pasted from previous statements, or are simple reiterations of the law and not true responses at all," Murray said ahead of the committee vote.
Rob Goad, a White House official tasked with education policy, called the plagiarism allegations "character assassination."
"The secretary-designate has long referenced the need for safe and supportive learning environments, free of discrimination, for all students, so that they can learn, achieve, thrive, grow, and lead successful productive lives. These heartfelt words are not the domain of any one individual," Goad said in a statement. "To level an accusation against her about these words included in responses to nearly 1,400 questions — 139 alone from the ranking member — is simply a desperate attempt to discredit Betsy DeVos, who will serve the Department of Education and our nation's children with distinction if confirmed."
This isn't the first time when Trump's team has had to fight off plagiarism allegations. Melania Trump was accused of copying parts of Michele Obama's speech during her remarks at the Republican National Convention over the summer.
Also, conservative commentator Monica Crowley had been tapped to be director of strategic communications at the National Security Council but withdrew from consideration after accusations of plagiarism.